One-line solution summary:
Innomaps provides business intelligence for small business owners and starting entrepreneurs using geoanalytics and data science
Pitch your solution.
Think about your town. Think about that small shop every time you walk by has a new business and yet nobody knows why it fails. Is it haunted? No. They just opened following their guts. They usually are entrepreneurs by necessity that may lack the right information to take better decisions before starting. This is an even harder reality in developing countries such as Ecuador were most unemployed need to start their own business to survive.
Innomaps can provide you with number of competitors around, turn-over rates and population features of the neighborhood.
Why risking all your money if we can give you all this information in an interactive map for the price of a medium-size pizza.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
Ecuador leads the world entrepreneurial ventures rate with 21.2% according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2017 (GEM 2017). This figure hides the fact that, after three years, one out of every three new businesses fails. Small businesses such as bakeries, small food shops and hairdressers are the most affected. The owners usually depend on the business as their only stream of income.
Due to small budget, one of the crucial obstacles they face is the lack of market research and non-lucrative business location. Starting entrepreneurs usually make these decisions based on their instincts rather than data, and this affects performance of their emerging business (AEI 2017).
Although market research studies are offered, they are very expensive and 42% of entrepreneurs by necessity cannot afford it. This is the market we would offer our interactive map featuring geo-data and insights report to help them take better decisions.
What is your solution?
As a son of an amazing entrepreneurial mom and as a computer science student, I saw that access to reliable real time data could help entrepreneurs understand their city needs, their customers in specific locations, their buying habits, the spending power and population across different neighborhoods. If my mom had acquire our services before starting her coffee shop she could have found out a location with high population, considerable food traffic and free of nearby competitors.
Innomaps is a maps platform that features all existing data in relation to businesses, demographics, transportation routes and points of interest, which would help entrepreneurs understand the city context and needs before starting their business. Our upcoming automated data analysis system would offer custom business insights in interactive maps to help our customers increase their chances of success by analyzing competitors’ location, population density and nearby points of interest using data science and mathematical methods.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn once said, "Starting a business is throwing yourself out of a cliff and assembling the plane on your way down".
In Ecuador and Latin America, there is a strong entrepreneurial trend. It is part of our culture to have local bakeries, hair salons and convenience stores in every neighborhood. Our organization has the vision of empowering small businesses to improve local economies by offering them high tech tools, which were only accessible for large corporations until today.
By providing business intelligence, we are:
- Increasing sustainability over time for small businesses so all starting entrepreneurs can focus on their actual work rather than competition and marketing strategies.
- Promoting a homogeneous economic distribution by finding the local necessity of specific neighborhoods and giving that information to local entrepreneurs to address it.
- Ensuring job stability within the business ecosystem because one business interact with several others, creating a chain-reaction of work opportunities. Imagine a bakery that buys from the local daily products distributors and sells its bread to the local burger restaurant.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?Enable small and new businesses, especially in untapped communities, to prosper and create good jobs through access to capital, networks, and technology
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.
Our goal is to create inclusive entrepreneurship by empowering low and middle-class entrepreneurs with tools that were only available for large corporations such as geo-analytics, data science and machine learning.
Our team, a group of technology people, believe in bringing together state of the art methods to the masses in order to improve their lives and create a fair economy. We are researching and implementing automated tools that would take entrepreneurs in a journey to understand their neighborhood needs and business realities based on data and analytic methods.
Risks are inversely proportional to the information available when starting a business.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Cuenca, Ecuador
What is your solution’s stage of development?Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
If you have additional video content that explains your solution, provide a YouTube or Vimeo link here:
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Geo-analytics, data science and machine learning on business intelligence have been around for the last twenty years but most of the work was focused on large corporations able to pay the R&D costs leaving small and medium size businesses out of the equation.
Innomaps is bringing the state of art methods to the masses; we want to even the odds between all businesses. Our team is researching the existing data science and machine learning technology, improving the methods, innovating the way of how existing data is used and offering a business solution at an affordable price for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Similar solutions are market research firms and data analytics companies that target large businesses. Some software development companies could try to enter the market but our entrance barrier are our data gathering logistics, in-house developed models and proprietary software. We are in rapid and efficient development in order to positioning ourselves as the geo-analytics company for small businesses in Ecuador and later on, in Latin America.
Our users and customers does not need to be data scientists in order to understand our insights and market analysis thanks to our user centered development strategies that look to avoid over complicated technical features and provide easy to use and compressive solutions.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
For a long time, humans have used maps to understand their environment and as a useful tool in decision making (to navigate, to build communities, to conquer territories and more). Our interactive maps have three core technology components:
- Geo-Analytics: We use advanced GIS methods to store and process our data. Computational geometry algorithms are develop to determine the influence area of a specific point (bakery, coffee shop, museum, etc) and to compute driving distances between points.
- Data Science: Mathematics and data are enough in order to make predictions or classify features. We use methods like principal component analysis, feature selection, linear regression and clustering algorithms to predict situations given a set of past and new data sets. We can select the most influential variables related to specific businesses categories (ex: coffee shops perform better next to competitors rather than away of them while pharmacy strongly depend on population density).
- Machine Learning: We use our huge data sets of previous and actual businesses in order to train machine-learning models and predict the best business locations. We are still in current research and development in this section because of the amount of theoretical research needed to implement a consistent solution
We use these components to provide our users and customers interactive maps with insightful information without complex technical details. We consider our maps as an interactive journey showing the city needs, population behavior and businesses history.
Provide evidence that this technology works.
Our team has been able to gather data sets, process them and get accurate location data. In our website, any user can create an account, sign in and check free demo maps from the most important cities in Ecuador. These maps contain different layers such as population features, categorized businesses and points of interest. We are in current research and development of our automation analysis system that would take advantage of the machine learning components previously described.
Geo-analytics have been around a long time, multiple examples based on more developed countries or focused on large businesses markets are:
We use these components to provide our users and customers interactive maps with insightful information without complex technical details. We consider our maps as an interactive journey showing the city needs, population behavior and businesses history.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2017 (GEM 2017), 42% of entrepreneurs in Ecuador decided to start their business out of necessity. Entering university or finding a regular job at a developing country are difficult tasks. Most people that is left behind the system decide to start something for themselves but they usually lack enough resources to pay expensive market analysis (so they follow their guts).
By researching and developing automated systems to perform location/market analysis based on huge data sets, we can offer affordable and practical insights that the starting entrepreneurs can use in order to take better decisions (If they are going to start a business at home, they can decide which is the best business type. If they need to increase their sales, they can find specific population features to create focused marketing strategies. If they want to open a business, they can find the most convenient location for that particular business type). Our automated system help us reduce costs and guarantee accurate results with the data, math and computer science behind.
These insights (information) allow the entrepreneurs to take informed decisions (intelligence) and increase their chances of success. An incredible chef with the right skills to run a restaurant would find it useful to know the spending power of the area or the food traffic near her local. This way they can focus on what really matters: the business.
Starting entrepreneurs that uses our platform would have better chances of success so they might end up being a medium size business, which could still acquire our products to expand their franchise. In addition, these stable businesses would hire more people and create a more distributed economy (opposite to large monopolies). A chain effect would make not only small and medium business succeed but create a supportive community for more entrepreneurship to come.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM 2017), there are 3 million people in Ecuador hoping to start their own business in 2017. This represents around 33% of the total active population. We know that not all these businesses would be location-based but according to national statistics (INEC), 62.48% of all businesses are direct commerce or dependent-on-location.
As of today, we have reached 200 users on our demo maps and we have been piloting our location analysis with 8 different businesses. Besides that, we have worked in 3 side projects related to geo-analytics.
In one year, we expect to be serving the three largest cities of Ecuador (Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca) and serve around 46,000 users. We need that 2,900 of those users as customers in order to cover our operating costs.
In five years, we expect to cover 0.7% of the available commerce or depend-on-location market which would be around 131,000 . It is worth considering that our direct impact are the entrepreneurs or business owners but we would also impact their employees and indirect related businesses (a successful bakery that used our products will be able to hire more personnel and to buy more material from its suppliers)
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
We want to promote inclusive entrepreneurship in Ecuador (the most entrepreneurial country in the world according to the GEM 2017) and the region. To do that, we have set up the following goals that as a software development startup we could achieve:
1 year goals
- Complete the automated system for location/market analysis. This way we would have a fully independent product ready to scale exponentially without compromising costs.
- Develop a complete marketing strategy to position ourselves in niche places where entrepreneurs usually pass by (local banks for loans, specialized shops for equipment and materials, entrepreneurial networks for support, and others).
- Serve the three largest cities of Ecuador (Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca) with our products.
- Expand our team in order to fill specialized fields such as sales, development, customer service, etc.
- Continue research of state of the art methods in order to have the most efficient technology on the geo-analytics.
5 year goals
- Serve at least sixteen cities in Ecuador and possibly expand to Colombia and Chile (countries with most similar data to offer our products)
- Create a strong customer database which could give us feedback about our products and results. Measure these results and improve our models.
- Develop spin-offs software solutions that we could offer to our existing customers (sale management system, services connecting platform, along others).
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
- Lack of sufficient funds to hire more personnel. A group of programmers and science students forms our team, we are currently paying them with equity (we have a vesting schedule based on our completed tasks). In some geo-analytics projects, we have being paid and use parts of it to pay internal costs and to pay the internal team members for their work. This obstacle makes us slower in advancing our company.
- Talent recruitment. Our team members have to be highly motivated individuals who can find efficient solutions and be focus on the user experience. We have encounter multiple people in this journey, some of them have been helpful and joined the team while others have not fulfill the expectations. We recognize that personnel recruitment is a haunting task and that is why we consider it a barrier for our goals.
5 years barriers
- Lack of available data in other countries. Innomaps long-term goal is to expand into other countries in the Latin America region. One of the key obstacles is finding the available data to perform our automated analysis. Without data or the means to gather it at a low cost, it would be hard to start Innomaps at another country.
- Connections in other countries. The Innomaps team has a strong connection between key stakeholders that help the company succeed in Ecuador. The lack of connections in other countries could be a barrier for a successful expansion.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
- Lack of sufficient funds. We are actively looking for grants, awards and competitions that could grant us seed funds (like MIT Solve). We have also been working on lateral geo-analytics projects with companies and businesses in order to pay for company expenses such as servers, internet, research and developers salaries.
- Talent recruitment. We believe that networks and connections can help us overcome this barrier. MIT Solve network of entrepreneurs might help us reach out to potential partners or employees willing to work for Innomaps vision.
- Lack of available data in other countries. We have researched the available data sets in each country and created an expansion road map starting with the most convenient countries on terms of data and data gathering viability.
- Connections in other countries. Our participation in multiple competitions and conferences have help us pave a way to find the right connections in other countries to start Innomaps. We believe that belonging to the Solve community, we would increase our chances of finding the perfect connections.
What type of organization is your solution team?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people work on your solution team?
Our team is composed by six incredible individuals who share the vision of helping starting entrepreneurs and small businesses with high-end technology. We have a governance structure with respective roles but we also work as staff in the following fields:
- 2 Software developers
- 1 Machine Learning developer
- 1 Marketing & Graphic Design officer
- 1 Logistics & Operational officer
- 1 Finance officer
- 1 Business Development adviser
- 1 Sustainable Development (SDGs) adviser
- 1 Marketing Strategy adviser
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
We are a group of individuals who share a common goal: make technology accessible for the masses. I believe this converts a group of individuals into a purpose-driven organization. As a team leader, I feel honored to have found team members who have given more than the expected in order to see Innomaps grow.
In the technical aspect, we are a group of technology and science people with deep background on mathematics and computer science. This has helped us understand our technology and develop it in-house. Most of our team members have lived similar entrepreneurship experience with their relatives so we know the problem first-hand. We count with the support of external advisers and partners that have helped us overcome specific business obstacles.
Our team have strong connections with different organizations and companies that have boost our progress. This advantage is key in order to positioned our brand and advertise our different products.
In the past year, we have built Innomaps with little to no funds so we have learned how to take advantages of every internet service, open source library and more. We know the most crucial parts of the business where we need funds and in case we receive it, we know how to use them the best way possible.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
Innomaps have the following partnerships:
- Local Savings & Credit Cooperative (CAJA): We are coordinating with a local bank in order to promote our location/market analysis to people asking for business loans. When our automated system is complete, the results would be consider in the risk assessment process.
- Entrepreneurial Networks (AEI, AJE, CCC Junior): To find our potential users and customers, we would use the connections of entrepreneurial networks to have publicity space in workshops, conferences and meetings.
- School of Mathematics and Computer Science (Yachay Tech University): We are working together with professors and researchers of Yachay Tech in order to develop our automated system. This is a key partnership for us because of the knowledge and technical support received by multiple faculty members in the university.
What is your business model?
Risk is inversely proportional to the information available. Our customers would reduce risks at starting a business when they acquire our products.
- Starting Entrepreneurs who want to start a location-based business.
- Small/Medium Businesses who want to open a new franchise.
- Large Businesses who want geo-analytics tools for decision-making.
- Free Basic Maps: These maps help our customers to understand our tools and potential of geo-analytics. They come with a basic business-categories data set of the five most popular business types (Restaurants, coffee shops and others).
- Specialized Maps: Users who want to know more information about a specific business type (Ex: Pharmacies) can get this product. They come with five specific business-categories data set, a business-information dashboard and a drawing tool. These maps would give them a deeper knowledge of the business category and the city features (Ex: large pharmacies, small pharmacies, natural products pharmacies and others). Each specialized map + five business-categories data set cost $30 and every new business category added would be $5.
- Interactive Journey Maps: (*on development) we would take our users into an interactive journey across the city features showing them the best locations to start their business and local marketing strategies (depending on the business category they have previously selected). Telling a story through data and our machine learning models. They would cost $40 and would feature five local marketing strategies. Every new strategy added would be $5.
- Custom-made Maps: Made for specific clients’ needs. Cost around $1,000 - $4,000.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Innomaps is a social tech startup, which aims to serve starting entrepreneurs and small businesses as their primary customers. This way we are generating an impact on inclusive entrepreneurship and running a for-profit business.
In order to cover our annual operational costs for Ecuador three main cities, we would have to sell the following amount of products (without considering features such as additional business-categories or marketing strategies):
- Specialized Maps: 1,800 units (150 units per month).
- Interactive Journey Maps: 1,050 units (88 units per month).
- Custom-made Maps: 16 units (around 1.33 unit per month).
According to our projections after we set up (in second year without seed capital), we would have $343,000 of annual revenue and $120,000 of annual expenses which would give us a gross margin of 65%. Our projections are conservative if we consider that 33% of Ecuador population is planning to open a business. We would be focusing on 0.7% of that population to offer our products (serving eight thousand customers and one hundred twenty three thousand users).
Why are you applying to Solve?
We got to know about the MIT Solve in the 2019 Challenges finals. Solve is a strong organizations that could help us leverage our work and advance more efficient in terms of technology and business development. Specifically, we believe that Solve would give us important support in the following barriers:
- Knowledge and mentoring. All startups need to heard feedback and advice from experienced fellows. We believe that the Solve community has one of the largest networks of tech entrepreneurship that we would love to take part. We need to build Innomaps in "shoulders of giants".
- Lack of sufficient funds. Raising funds is important for Innomaps fast advancement and efficient brand positioning.
- Talent recruitment. MIT Solve network of entrepreneurs would help us reach out to potential partners or employees willing to work following Innomaps vision.
- Connections in other countries. We believe that belonging to the Solve community, we would increase our chances of finding the perfect connections in order to scale Innomaps into multiple countries of the Latin America region.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
As computer scientists and developers we know that the software world is always evolving. That is why we believe we can always have mentorship from experts in the development and improvement of our technology.
We also recognize that advice from past entrepreneurs or experienced business people would help us lead our company into a successful social company in the region. We would love to exchange ideas with experts about more specifics topics such as marketing campaigns or talent recruitment tips.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
- MIT Urban Economics Lab: researchers of these labs have experience in city interactions so we would love to heard feedback and advice from their perspective. It would be interesting to create alliances for research support in Ecuador and other Latin America countries
- Solve Members: The solve community has incredible members, which we would love to connect in order to search for future partnerships or mentorship. We think that the following members would bring great value to Innomaps: Grupo Salinas (with their experience with Totalplay and Upaxer), Qlik (with their extensive expertise in business analytics) and MIT CNC (with its network of professionals and academics focused on AI).